Lakers News: L.A. Missed Out On Kyrie Irving

How Los Angeles tried to add LeBron’s old running mate.

Your Los Angeles Lakers tried their darnedest to reunite LeBron James with his former Cleveland Cavaliers running mate, seven-time All-Star Kyrie Irving, this summer. But it was not to be.

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Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson of Bally Sports Network reports that the Lakers missed out on a deal to add Irving via trade this summer, and now it appears that the mercurial point guard will at least start the 2022-23 season at the Barclays Center.

The Lakers apparently preferred to sign Irving in free agency rather than trade for him, which would have limited him to inking something around a taxpayer mid-level exception worth $6.5 million. After Irving instead decided to pick up his player option for the season, worth up to $36.9 million, the Lakers moved on, signing shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV to their mid-level exception. L.A. eventually traded for veteran point guard Patrick Beverley, presumably to replace current Lakers starting point guard Russell Westbrook.

Irving thrived while playing alongside James in Cleveland, appearing in three consecutive NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors from 2015-2017. James and Irving willed Cleveland to an historic comeback against the Warriors in 2016, digging themselves out of a 3-1 hole thanks in large part to the duo’s combined firepower. Irving demanded a trade in the 2017 offseason, and was shipped out to the Boston Celtics. The 6’2″ point guard joined the Nets as a 2019 free agent.

Robinson recently caught up with former Showtime Laker Byron Scott to get his opinion on L.A.’s ill-fated 2021-22 season, when Anthony Davis and LeBron James were beset by injuries and the team stumbled to a 33-49 record and the 11th seed in the West. 

Scott, a 6’4″ shooting guard out of Arizona State, was drafted by the Lakers with the fourth pick in 1983, and would go on to play for L.A. from 1983-1993, winning three titles with the group. He would later go on to act as L.A.’s head coach during Kobe Bryant’s final two seasons.

“Frank [Vogel] should’ve had a [really] candid conversation with Russ and said, ‘You know what, I’m going to bring you off the bench. And that way you can be Russ, the ball’s in your hands. You’re playing against second-tier guys… you’ve been killing first-tier guys for so many years. And you’ll be able to facilitate to the other guys.’ So I think them trying to force that whole situation [starting Westbrook] to work… it was just chaos from the start.”

Vogel led L.A. to a championship in 2020 with a roster much more suited to his preferred coaching approach. Lakers brass opted to fire him at the end of the season, and now appears to be considering ways to move on from Westbrook. L.A. brought in former Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham.

Scott is spot-on, Westbrook may be more suited to a reduced role as a bench facilitator, in what will be his age-34 season. Whether Westbrook thinks so too is another matter.

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